A Parent’s Guide to #QBConnect – San Jose

Thinking of attending Intuit’s Quickbooks Connect Conference in San Jose California?  I would highly recommend it; if you have attended in the past then I’m sure you would agree that it is the foremost conference for Small Business Owners and Accounting Professionals.

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Now if you are like me and have children you might be asking, how can I balance a conference in California with my busy family life?  Well it certainly isn’t easy, you can take the time away from the family unit and attend yourself;  or like our situation, my wife and I both share an interest in the conference, but also have three children…so we bring them along with us.  Now this may only work if you and your significant other can get time away from the daily grind, and you are able to trade off on the parenting duties while away, but if you can pull it off, where better to mix business with pleasure than sunny California?

So if you have ever thought of bringing your kids along to QB Connect San Jose, or haven’t attended yet because of your busy family life; here are ten helpful tips on how you can get the most out of the conference with your family in-tow.

Packing for the Trip

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Now, not everyone would agree that less is more, but we find that minimal packing is the key when traveling with the family.  This means, no checked luggage and only carry-on by means of backpacks…I know what your thinking, a weeks’ worth of clothes in a backpack, but it is possible; not to mention super efficient in getting through the Airport checkpoints.  Now this takes a fair bit of planning on what essentials you should bring, but it is worth it when you don’t have to lug around heavy checked baggage.  Our girls are old enough to carry their own backpacks but this may not be the preferred option for some families with younger children.

Air Travel

For us we are travelling from Canada so Air Travel is a definitely required, and this would be the main expense when bringing the family along, so doing your research will pay off.  We find direct flights are key, as dealing with connecting flights with children can be unenjoyable and difficult.  Booking in advance is an great way to save money and if you happen to have frequent flyer points, even better.  Most Airlines offer services to pick your seats after your tickets have been purchased, we find that this is very important to ensure that your family is all sitting in proximity to each other on the plane.  Another helpful hint is that some planes are no longer equipped with onboard tv’s for in-flight movies, so just in case we bring along our laptops and iPads with movies pre-downloaded to make the flight more enjoyable.

Accommodations

The good thing about the hotel is, whether you are traveling alone or bring the family along it is not necessarily an added expense to your trip.  For us we alway try to find a hotel with a swimming pool, as for QB Connect San Jose, the Fairmont San Jose is a bit of a hub for conference goers.  But there are plenty of other hotels in close proximity to the Conference centre.

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Finding a hotel close to local attractions is helpful to cut down on travel costs if you don’t have a rental car.  As for the Fairmont San Jose, we have been very pleased by the friendliness of the staff, the cleanliness of the facilities and the overall ambiance of the hotel; this is one of the nicest places to stay in San Jose, and has plenty of amenities.

Food

Now food can be a bit tricky if you are not local to the area, Where should you eat? Which places are good? Do you have to alway eat out at Restaurants?  We found that San Jose has plenty of wonderful restaurants to offer, from fine dining to sports bars to family restaurants and plenty of local cuisine.  Another great option is to take advantage of the mini-fridge 23473068_10159500018575705_8992986794760911612_nin your room and hit up the local grocery store to stock it full of breakfast and snack items…this is a great way to save some money and keep the kids fed.

Of course California also has a lot of great desert places too!  A couple of our kids favourite are Cream, which is an ice cream sandwich bar, where you get to pick your cookies, ice cream flavour and candy toppings….yum!  But the go-to place by-far for desert is My Milkshake, where they combine a traditional milkshake with any candy and candy combination that you can imagine.

I hope I haven’t made you too hungry!  There are also some great dinner events associated with the conference, most of these are graciously hosted by the App Partners attending the conference.  Either way, you and your family will not go hungry.

Cultural Attractions

San Jose certainly has it fair share of activities for the family, from major attractions like Katy Perry concerts and San Jose Sharks hockey games to something more cultural.  The Children’s Discovery Museum is a favourite of ours, from educational science stations to sensory play and even a bubble area, there is hours of fun to be had by the whole family, and with children of all ages.

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And new this year is “Bill’s Backyard”, an interactive Nature playground, with waterfalls, plants, climbing structures and tunnels…a bit hit with my girls for sure.

Of course our trips to Silicon Valley are never complete without visiting the The Tech Museum of Innovation, it is three floors of interactive science and technology; from building your own robots and catapults to virtual reality a BioDesign Studio and new this year is Body Worlds Decoded, exploring the human body.  We learned this year that if you purchase a yearly family membership, they apply a portion to your entry fee towards it; of course we are not local so won’t use the membership that often, but next years’ QB Connect San Jose is earlier than it was this year, therefore our one-year membership will still be valid when we return next November.

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And new for us this year was the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, which boast to be home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Western North America.   Now this museum is not within walking distance to the Hotel, so a rental car or Uber would be required.  There is a unique and interesting collection of ancient artifacts; and a very reasonable entry fee.

This attraction was a favourite with my oldest daughter as she has been studying ancient Egypt in school recently.  There is also a Planetarium in this building.  This museum will definitely be on our list for next year.

Childcare

I know what you’re thinking, this is all great spending time with the kids but what about the conference?  Of course you may decide that one of the parents goes to the conference while the other explores San Jose with the children; but it is possible for you both to take in the conference.  My wife certainly gets more out of the conference than I do, so she is the primary attendee, but we will usually purchase a one-day pass for me on the “Main Day”, for me to check out the conference.  Of course with both of us at the conference the children are not yet old enough to keep themselves entertained….this is where Netflix is handy…..just kidding!

For the past three years we have been using a wonderful in-Hotel Nanny services provided by Town and Country Resources.  They offer extremely qualified and lovely care providers and they will come right to your Hotel room; we usually have crafts or games for the nanny to do with the girls or often times the nannies will bring activities for the girls with them.  This is such a great service and it allows my wife and I to attend the conference together and into the evening hours provides us with a bit of a date night.

Relaxation

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Of course a large conference like QB Connect San Jose can be tiring, not to mention having the family along, but there are many outlets for relaxation.  The Fairmont San Jose offers an onsite Health Club and Spa called Tova Day Spa, or there are plenty of coffee shops in the area, a beautiful park to go for a stroll, a cocktail lounge in the Hotel lobby and of course the Hotel pool.

Whatever your means of unwinding there are plenty of options nearby.  The Hotel also offers plenty of sitting areas if you just want to curl up with a good book, your laptop or unplug and reflect on your conference experience.

Homework

Now if you are planning on brining your kids along, you may want to request any homework that they may miss ahead of time, but one thing that we found was amazing is most of their homework can be completed online.  Our kid’s school uses Google Classroom for a lot of their assignments and schoolwork, so while we travel the girls can sign into their accounts and stay up-to-date.

Shopping

Whether you are looking for souvenirs, clothes or gifts, San Jose has plenty of shopping places, from the traditional malls to boutique shops, you should be able to find what your looking for.  As I mentioned early we are a backpacking family so usually our shopping is kept fairly light.

Networking

With every conference there is always a great deal of networking, and in this day in age when many businesses run virtually, a conference is often one of the only chances for colleagues and business acquaintances to meet face-to-face.  As noted previously the Fairmont San Jose lounge is a bit of hub for conference goers, usually in the evening this proves to be an excellent spot to meet-up, mingle and chat with fellow conference goers.  I find too when my wife may be at the conference, the girls and I generally interact with acquaintances than may be taking a break or traveling through the hotel.

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And no matter how much you plan your trip, you never know what surprises a vacation may have in store; for us this year it was an outdoor skating rink next to our hotel.  My wife and three girls are all figure skaters so this was very exciting for them.  Just be chance we happened to be there during the opening ceremonies and have the pleasure of meeting one on my wife’s childhood idles, Olympic Figure Skater Kristy Yamaguchi.  We were also able to skate on the outdoor rink amongst the Palm Trees, which was an incredible experience.

So I hope these tips have been helpful for you to perhaps consider attending next years’ event with the whole family.  San Jose certainly has something for everyone and QB Connect San Jose is definitely the go-to conference of the year if you are in the Small Business or Accounting industries.  So if you make the trip with the family next year, look us up and we can “Connect”!

Geocaching…

So a year ago I introduced Geocaching to my three girls, and as it’s know as the “world’s biggest treasure hunt”, I thought it would be a way to explore, learn about geography, visit cool places and ultimately have some fun!

Not really sure if they would enjoy it, we started off small, we checked out a few caches in our neighbourhood and they really seemed to like the idea.  My oldest certainly liked the challenge of finding the cache using the GPS, it wasn’t until the younger two realized  that some of the caches have fun treasures inside them that they became interested.

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So over the past year we are now approaching 100 finds, we have logged finds in four provinces and have visited many unique and exciting locations and attractions.  The girls love to explore and they are always excited to continue the adventure.

Now for people that are not too familiar with geocaching, it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt, you rely on the GPS coordinates to get in the general area of the item that is hidden (usually a waterproof container of some sort), then using hints and clues from past geocacher’s that have found the cache you narrow in your search.  We have found caches in remote areas in the country, in densely populated areas in a city or town, and even on walking trails or public parks.

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We have decided to use the Geocaching.com application, which allows you to find and track the caches, based on your geographic location, but you can also use a simple GPS to for finding.  I addition to finding the cache, most caches have a visitor log in the container, this allows people to leave personalized messages about their find.

The girls are so keen to explore when we decide it is time to geocache, and one bonus is that it is essentially a free activity, apart from the fuel it may take to drive around to the different locations, the kids get hours of entertainment and enjoyment without it costing anything.

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So if you are ever looking for something economical and fun to do with your kids, perhaps geocaching is worth a try.  We are looking forward to exploring the Toronto area this week on a geocaching adventure, and we are planning some geocaching in California in November.  Enjoy exploring and treasure hunting…

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Happy Campers!!!

I have always loved camping, from the time I was young and into adulthood.  Sure when I was younger it was tent camping and portaging and we only brought the bare necessities, but as long as we were outside in the fresh air, with hiking and fishing and a campfire it made for good memories. 

So as my wife and I started to have our girls we tried to camp from time-to-time but found it difficult when the kids were really young.

So as the girls got older we could see that there was some interest from them to go camping on a more regular basis; so we decided to purchase a camping trailer; sure it’s not the same experience as a tent and it’s not “roughing it”, but we figured that we would tend to camp more if there just a few luxuries; i.e. coffee maker, and a shower.

So as we spend our free weekends in a campground, enjoying burnt jiffy-pop popcorn, hot dogs and plenty of fresh air, we are making memories and the girls are having fun.

The girls love canoeing, hiking, fishing and geocaching and they’re learning lots about nature, it’s also about unplugging from technology and being active.  We have found that camping allows us to explore different parts of Ontario and Canada that a cottage would not typically offer.


Of course the family dog comes along too, and enjoys every minute of it.  Rain or shine we enjoy our camping experiences and the kids can hardly wait for the next camping trip.

So if you are looking for a great way to get active, explore and have some fun, perhaps a family camping trip would do the trick!

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California Dreamin’….

"Go Ask Your Mother"

As I have mentioned before, my wife’s particular career choice provides us with some very fortunate traveling opportunities throughout North America.  Whenever possible we bring the kids along for the ride and make family vacations out of these opportunities.

While traveling to different cities there is always the highly marketed attractions and theme parks, however we tend to migrate to site-seeing opportunities that are more cultural, such as museums, historical landmarks and parks; after all, we figure if we are going to take the girls out of school to partake in these trips, it is important to include some learning into the vacation.

We were quite fortunate last year to attend a conference is San Jose, California; and even more fortunate to have attended again this year.  San Jose is a city with many wonderful cultural attractions, this year we made a return visit to the Children’s Discovery Museum

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California Dreamin’….

As I have mentioned before, my wife’s particular career choice provides us with some very fortunate traveling opportunities throughout North America.  Whenever possible we bring the kids along for the ride and make family vacations out of these opportunities.

While traveling to different cities there is always the highly marketed attractions and theme parks, however we tend to migrate to site-seeing opportunities that are more cultural, such as museums, historical landmarks and parks; after all, we figure if we are going to take the girls out of school to partake in these trips, it is important to include some learning into the vacation.

We were quite fortunate last year to attend a conference is San Jose, California; and even more fortunate to have attended again this year.  San Jose is a city with many wonderful cultural attractions, this year we made a return visit to the Children’s Discovery Museum.  dscn0139This museum focuses on sensory activities for kids of all ages, most, if not all of their exhibits are interactive and provide a creative and imaginative learning experience.  Our daughters were able to explore science and engineering, learn about healthy eating in the Rainbow Market, experience city life in a life size re-creation of a streetscape, blow bubbles,  and many more exciting things, including all kinds of craft activities and building with life size foam blocks; a very imaginative exhibit which happened to be sponsored by Intuit, which was the company holding the QB Connect conference that my wife was attending.  Needless to say, the girls had an absolute blast and took with them many new creative thoughts.

On the same theme as museums, San Jose also has an incredible Science and Technology centre called The Tech, which is a self described “museum of innovation“.  Again this was a must see this year as the girls enjoyed is so much on their visit last year, much like the Discovery Centre, this museum is very interactive and provided numerous learning opportunities for the girls, from science based crafts (building butterflies using links and hinges) to interactive motion screens teaching about balance, the human body and exploring space and geography.  I asked the girls which exhibit the enjoyed the most and it was definitely the in the new biology exhibit; they were at a station which had them perform real science experiments where they used DNA to create their own bacteria and analyze it.

Of course museums and technology centres are great learning environments, however sometimes you come across other cultural opportunities that are inspiring and make you truly appreciate things in life, as were are typically too busy to notice them sometimes. dscn0026While walking through a park in downtown San Jose, we came across a musical swing set, as people would swing, it would play a beautiful melody, with a unique sound depending on how fast the swings were moving, and if all of them work moving or just some.  While my wife and I observed this beautiful park feature, we could not help to notice that the swing was drawing in people of all ages, all walks of life and many different cultures.  Everyone felt comfortable on this swing, nobody was being judged, there was no costs to swing on it, there was just one thing in common with everyone, they all had smiles on their faces, not to mention the joy it brought to all of the passers-by.  So “well done” San Jose, a fixture in your downtown park has broken down barriers and reminds people to stop and enjoy the simple things in life, which sometimes includes embracing our neighbours and fellow park goers.

Later the same day as our swing set experience we were absolutely in awe of the annual Dia De Los Muertos festival, which is San Jose’s “Day of the Dead” celebration.  This is a
celebration of life, observed by Mexicans and other cultures too.  We arrived at the square
where people were gathering for a procession through downtown San Jose; this included hundreds of participants, young and old.  There will traditional dancers, drummers and even people on stilts; many wore costumes and had their faces painted.  What was truly great for us is that they asked us if we would like to join them in the procession, of course we said yes and were glad we did, what a memorable experience this was.  The girls has so much fun and were truly amazed at this cultural celebration.

During one of our final days in California we traveled to San Francisco, now having not rented a car while we were here, we figured that we would try Uber out; so I downloaded franciscanthe app entered in our location and what our destination was and literally within minutes their was a car at the front of the hotel to whisk us off to San Francisco, this service is great.  We decided to check out the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which is very lively; while there we seen street performers, checked out some souvenir shops and had lunch at a place called Franciscan Crab Restaurant which seemed to be a go-to place for celebrities, with pictures on their walls of folks like Jack Nicholson, Lucille Ball, Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Hopkins to name a few, the exterior looked like a ship and the interior had a vintage fifties vibe.  The food was incredible and the very entertaining atmosphere was enjoyed by the girls.

So overall I would say that our latest experience in California was very cool, the kids had fun as alway, they swam in the outdoor pool in late October; because, well they’re Canadian! and we checked out great culture.  So now it seems that California has definitely made it onto our list of our favourite destinations.  With the focus on culture and learning, it certainly makes for a rewarding and memorable experience for the girls, and for my wife and I too.  So if you ever have the good fortune of finding yourself in California, it’s an absolutely beautiful part of the world!  Not too mention when you travel in the fall the weather is perfect.

And by-the-way, the conference my wife attended was an amazing experience for her, she was named the 2016 Firm of the Future representing Canada, which allowed her to rub elbows with some celebrities, network with new and existing colleagues in the industry and overall strengthen her place on the Global Stage as a leader and innovator in Cloud Accounting.  Congratulations to my wife Jennie on a very successful year in business, all the while being an amazing, dedicated and involved wife and mother!

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Firm of the Future!!!

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As the title of my blog suggests, my wife is a key contributor to our busy home life, and always has been.  But through those years of sleepless nights and countless diaper changes she had to make the choice to place her career aspirations on hold; or at least have them simmer on the back burner.

So when the time came for the our third daughter to get on the school bus, Jennie quickly realized that she now had time during the day to focus on her business.  So how did she do this?  She took to social media and got the word out that she was looking to network and collaborate with colleagues in her industry.

Well this certainly exploded for Jennie, what seemed like overnight; she was now on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other social channels, connecting with the Accounting Industry and the World;  after all when you work from home, the water cooler and boardroom are virtual, so she needed to get creative on how to connect, and build business contacts.

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So where do you start when you want to connect and help folks in your industry?  You start on building your brand….for Jennie this was all about being collaborative, she wanted to be know as a problem solver and someone who brought people together to network, while taking hold of the Cloud Accounting industry and the limitless potential it offers.

Over the past few years Jennie’s brand has gained an extreme amount of traction, in addition to provide valuable services for her clients, Jennie has gained notoriety through speaking engagements, podcasts and webinars; Jennie is a coach, mentor and collaborator.

Jennie has made many contributions to programs supported by Intuit such as the Mentorship Program which helps accounting professionals determine their place in the cloud and how to leverage their business strengths to develop business eco-systems for their clients, ultimately allowing them to refine and scale their practices.

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The accounting application community has certainly embraced Jennie, as she strives to connect application partners that integrate with QuickBooks Online, while promoting cross-integration between these same app partners.

Through this process Jennie has developed valuable contacts and has entered into a new segment in her business, by provide non-biased reviews of applications that can strengthen business eco-systems and ultimately provide value to clients.

As a result of her dedication to the industry, Jennie has been name the QuickBooks Firm of the Future for Canada.  She is currently competing on the world stage for the title of Global Firm of the Future.  From October 3rd-15th, 2016 voting will be open for this competition.  Feel free to support Jennie by voting for @mooredetails by following this link: QB Firm of the Future.  The winner will be announced at QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, California later this month.

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So how does a work-at-home mom from small town Canada get recognized on the global stage? she developed her brand, stayed true to her values and worked collaboratively in the industry to foster and support a community of open minded professionals looking to scale their business, embrace the cloud and have fun along the way!14469556_10157439480315705_5895083428268864215_n

Congratulations Jennie on your achievements, you are inspiring many people along the way with your positive attitude and unique and fun approach to running a successful business and maintaining a work/life harmony.  You are a beautiful role model for our daughters, your family is by your side supporting you all the way!